Colorado gun culture: Oscar Wilde had us pegged in 1882
Famous Irish poet, playwright, art-lover Oscar Wilde came to Colorado in 1882 as part of what became a notorious whirlwind lecture tour of the United States. Hopping across the continent in horse-drawn carriages and steam trains, he was giving lessons and getting lessons. Once safely returned to the Old World, he regaled European aesthetes with tales of exotic America — the naivete, the rugged manners and style, the matter-of-fact violence, the unbridled receptivity to all things new. “America! Really, I swear!”
The story of his visit to high-altitude Leadville surely had them rolling in the aisles. It is an absurd recounting of a place where dinners are served at the bottom of mine shafts and where guns! guns! guns! are as common as shirts.
As people in Castle Rock this year engaged in a battle over open-carry gun policy will tell you, much and nothing has changed in Colorado in the near century and a half since the legendary fop came and went.
I explained that he had been dead for some little time which elicited the enquiry “Who shot him “? They afterwards took me to a dancing saloon where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice:
PLEASE DO NOT SHOOT THE PIANIST.
HE IS DOING HIS BEST.
The mortality among pianists in that place is marvellous. Then they asked me to supper, and having accepted, I had to descend a mine in a rickety bucket in which it was impossible to be graceful. Having got into the heart of the mountain I had supper, the first course being whisky, the second whisky and the third whisky.
I went to the Theatre to lecture and I was informed that just before I went there two men had been seized for committing a murder, and in that theatre they had been brought on to the stage at eight o’clock in the evening, and then and there tried and executed before a crowded audience. But I found these miners very charming and not at all rough.
[ Sarony photo via Oscar Wilde in America ]
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